In addition to words, parents can show their affection through physical gestures — snuggling with young children and bear hugs for older ones, for example — and through making the time to simply be with them. The other side of effective parenting is discipline, characterized by clear guidelines, limits and age-appropriate expectations. Effective discipline helps children by increasing the predictability of the environment and their own sense of control at the same time that it reduces coercive interactions between parent and child and prevents involvement with deviant peers.
Family routines such as meals and work and play practices strengthen the structure that provides stability, fosters communication and reinforces expectations. There are numerous other aspects of effective parenting before, during and after divorce. The quality of parent-child relationships is an important protective factor that predicts the long-term impact of divorce on children.
Unfortunately, national surveys show a significant deterioration in relationships between children and their parents, especially fathers, over time. Among these are quality parenting practices including committing to one-on-one time with each child, affirming their strengths, reinforcing positive behaviours, listening without judgment, accepting ambivalent feelings, reflecting understanding, connecting words to feelings, allowing silence and giving children space to not talk.
All of these help children and parents alike to understand each other and deepen their connection. Developing strong parent-child relationships depends on communicating well and frequently with children, especially listening to their feelings and responding with empathy. Research shows that healthy families regularly incorporate genuine expressions of appreciation and encouragement for one another.
Taking the time to notice and express appreciation for acts of kindness or consideration creates goodwill that fuels hope, optimism and loving relationships. Establishing new family rituals and routines is another way to strengthen the bonds between parents and children.
These convey the message that we are still a family — a very reassuring message for children. Parents can also strengthen their bonds with their children at the same time that they are helping them to become resilient by conveying a positive sense of hope about the future and reinforcing a message of enduring, unconditional love for their children. Another important way that parents can strengthen their relationships with their children is to avoid rushing into new relationships. While it is understandable that divorcing parents long to have a loving new partner, entering such relationships too quickly can come at great cost to their children.
The issues are compounded when the new partner also has children. Many children express an enormous sense of loss, and they may fear being replaced when their parent is suddenly focused on a new love. Taking new relationships slowly and allowing children time to adjust to the divorce before adding more changes benefits children and new relationships. The Stress in America survey conducted by the American Psychological Association reveals the disconnect between what children experience and what parents think they experience.
Recent neurophysiological research has shown that naming emotions calms the amygdala, increases activity in the prefrontal cortex, and helps children develop neural pathways for managing strong emotion, problem solving, rational thinking and judgment. Children often need time and space to share their hidden feelings, and they are most likely to do so if they believe their parents will listen to them openly and without judgment. How parents manage their own strong emotions and go about ending their marriage and creating a new way of life makes a major difference for their children.
It is imperative that parents learn how to control conflict that is verbally or physically hostile, frequent, intense or focused on the children — the kinds of conflict that are most damaging to children. Exposure to domestic violence and abusive behaviour is especially toxic to children. There are a number of techniques that parents can use to protect children from the toxic effects of intense conflict.
Among these are reframing their relationship into a respectful, business-like partnership for parenting. In high-conflict situations, parallel parenting in which parents have limited contact is often preferable to co-parenting in which parents interact and communicate frequently. Mediation has been shown to be an effective way to resolve conflict as an alternative to litigation in divorce proceedings.
A follow up study found that 12 years after mediation, parents were better able to co-parent and contain and resolve conflict than a litigation control group. Preventive interventions have been shown to have a positive impact on children and parenting. Programs such as CODIP provide group support and skills that help children by reducing their sense of isolation, clarifying misconceptions, and teaching them how to communicate better with their parents, problem solve and develop other important life skills that are particularly important in times of uncertainty and change.
Interventions for parents, including parent education programs, provide critical information for parents. They help parents understand that what they do matters greatly in shaping outcomes for children after divorce and encourage them to reframe their relationship into a respectful, business-like partnership for parenting.
These sessions provide positive, empowering messages to parents, emphasizing what they can control, educating them about the benefits of containing conflict and collaborating when it is safe to do so, and teaching the powerful protective practices of quality parenting, with warmth and limits.
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Research on in-depth interventions for parents shows better mental health outcomes for children six years after parents participated, compared with those whose parents did not participate in such a program. Beyond these six research areas, much else has been studied and established about how parents can help children weather divorce and the series of changes that it initiates — more than can be included in a brief article.
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These are among the additional areas that have a positive impact on children:. More research is needed on the subject of parenting plans.
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In particular, it is important to learn how to address the needs of children of different ages, especially infants and preschool children, most effectively. Whether it is best for infants and toddlers to spend all their nights in one home or to share the overnight time between homes and parents is yet to be decisively determined. Likewise, more research is needed to develop and evaluate effective interventions for parents entrenched in high conflict and appropriate parenting plans for children in high-conflict families.
Studies designed to understand what types of interventions are most effective and tailored to specific populations and problems will certainly add important knowledge.
Since divorce is so prevalent worldwide, it is critical to understand its impact on children and to establish ways to protect them from its potentially damaging effects. Fortunately, a sizeable body of research in multiple areas surrounding divorce and parenting has already yielded considerable information. We know how divorce impacts children in the short and long term. We know the major risk and protective factors that predict how they fare. Effective parenting encompassing both warmth and discipline, developing positive parent-child relationships and managing conflict are the three most important factors in protecting children.
Evidence-based interventions for children and programs that strengthen parenting skills are helping families at the same time that they are yielding valuable research. But big challenges remain: How can we help all children come through family changes with resilience and healthy adjustment? How can we reach all the parents and help them develop the focus, skills and determination to give their children the best chance at leading fulfilling lives? The implications of all this research is this empowering message: There is much you can do to foster better outcomes for your children.
The risks are real, but so is the potential to help them grow through the changes, to become resilient, and to feel completely secure in knowing they are loved — and will be loved for a lifetime. Parents need this valuable information on ways to reduce the negative impact of divorce on their children early in the process of a breakup. One of the challenges is how to reach parents with parent education programs, legal procedures and other preventive outreach before problems become entrenched.
A triage system of support is needed in every community that includes parent education, alternative dispute resolution methods and preventive interventions for parents and children. Many of these services are cut due to financial constraints, yet research shows that early outreach programs are cost effective and help to prevent more complex problems for parents and children.
We need to find effective and cost-effective ways to widely disseminate evidence-based interventions so that they are easily accessed and available to all parents and their children. The biggest implication for policy is to reframe the legal divorce process when children are involved so that it incorporates research on what is genuinely best for children. Decisions about custody and parenting time must be made in the context of child development research, not a uniform default toward any one particular schedule. Increasing the availability of alternatives such as collaborative law and mediation and providing evidence-based information for judges, legal and mental health professionals, and finding ways to structure legal proceedings to protect children are all changes that will benefit children and ultimately, the society they inherit and shape as adults.
Pedro-Carroll JA. Emery RE, topic ed.
Step 1: Notice how you are feeling.
Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development [online]. Published June Accessed July 10, Skip to main content. PDF version.
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Introduction Each year, millions of children around the globe face family disruption, and in many countries, divorce rates are rising. Research Context There are several valuable areas of research that contribute heavily to our understanding of how parents can help their children cope with separation and divorce. Key Research Questions Among the many areas of research that contribute to understanding how to parent effectively through divorce, these are some of the most critical questions: What are the factors that put children at risk for negative short- and long-term outcomes, and what are those that help to protect them?
What constitutes effective parenting that helps children to thrive in the wake of divorce or separation? It's often difficult for parents and kids to get together for a family meal, let alone spend quality time together. But there is probably nothing kids would like more.
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Get up 10 minutes earlier in the morning so you can eat breakfast with your child or leave the dishes in the sink and take a walk after dinner. Kids who aren't getting the attention they want from their parents often act out or misbehave because they're sure to be noticed that way. Many parents find it rewarding to schedule together time with their kids. Create a "special night" each week to be together and let your kids help decide how to spend the time.
Look for other ways to connect — put a note or something special in your kid's lunchbox. Adolescents seem to need less undivided attention from their parents than younger kids. Because there are fewer windows of opportunity for parents and teens to get together, parents should do their best to be available when their teen does express a desire to talk or participate in family activities.
Attending concerts, games, and other events with your teen communicates caring and lets you get to know more about your child and his or her friends in important ways. Don't feel guilty if you're a working parent. It is the many little things you do — making popcorn, playing cards, window shopping — that kids will remember.
Young kids learn a lot about how to act by watching their parents. The younger they are, the more cues they take from you.
Before you lash out or blow your top in front of your child, think about this: Is that how you want your child to behave when angry? Be aware that you're constantly being watched by your kids. Studies have shown that children who hit usually have a role model for aggression at home. Model the traits you wish to see in your kids: respect, friendliness, honesty, kindness, tolerance.
What’s your parenting style?
Exhibit unselfish behavior. Do things for other people without expecting a reward. Express thanks and offer compliments. Above all, treat your kids the way you expect other people to treat you. You can't expect kids to do everything simply because you, as a parent, "say so. If we don't take time to explain, kids will begin to wonder about our values and motives and whether they have any basis. Parents who reason with their kids allow them to understand and learn in a nonjudgmental way. Make your expectations clear. If there is a problem, describe it, express your feelings, and invite your child to work on a solution with you.
Be sure to include consequences. Make suggestions and offer choices. Be open to your child's suggestions as well. Kids who participate in decisions are more motivated to carry them out. If you often feel "let down" by your child's behavior, perhaps you have unrealistic expectations.
Parents who think in "shoulds" for example, "My kid should be potty-trained by now" might find it helpful to read up on the matter or to talk to other parents or child development specialists. Kids' environments have an effect on their behavior, so you might be able to change that behavior by changing the environment. If you find yourself constantly saying "no" to your 2-year-old, look for ways to alter your surroundings so that fewer things are off-limits.
This will cause less frustration for both of you. As your child changes, you'll gradually have to change your parenting style. Chances are, what works with your child now won't work as well in a year or two. Teens tend to look less to their parents and more to their peers for role models.
But continue to provide guidance, encouragement, and appropriate discipline while allowing your teen to earn more independence. And seize every available moment to make a connection! As a parent, you're responsible for correcting and guiding your kids.